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Developing leaders in your organization

Developing leaders in your business is critical for long term survival. So how do you create a leadership development and training strategy to support the development of future leaders? Here are some suggestions. 

Make sure your current leadership team are really leading effectively.  Future leaders learn by watching the current leadership. They observe a leader effectively perform a behavior and then choose to duplicate that behavior. For example, we learn table manners by our place in a social structure. If you were raised in a culture that putting your elbows on the table was ok then you may repeat that behavior without thinking about it.  Behaviors and cultural instructions for behavior are learned through the process of interacting with others and by observing their behavior and the consequences of their actions

Start a leadership book of the month club. Reading exposes leaders and future leaders to new ideas, concepts and ways of thinking about situations. As a current leader I am sure you have favorite books that have helped you become better in business and leadership. Choose books that you have read and loved.

The list I would have my team read.

The Last Arrow by Erwin Raphael McManus - Last read in 2018. “To live a life in which you strike your last arrow, where you never settle for less, you have to know what you want. And when you know what you want, you have to muster up the courage and faith to pursue it with all your might.” I want my team to live this type of life.

Intention Living by John Maxwell - Last read in 2015. This book focuses on making a difference. “A transformational leader intentionally engages people to think and act in such a way that it makes a positive difference in their lives and in the lives of others.”

Nine Minutes on Monday by James Robbins - Last read in 2014. This book makes you think about being a leader in business. “The second paycheck is that moment of connection between purpose and pay.” Often we need to help our future leaders understand the importance of having a purpose and communicating that purpose. I love the end of the chapter questions.


The BIG MOO by The Group of 33 and Seth Godin - Last read in 2016.  I LOVE the subtitle Stop trying to be perfect and start being remarkable. This book is jammed packed with great messages and it is an amazing color of purple!


How successful people grow by John Maxwell - Last read in 2014. His chapter on says it all; “Become an intentional learner. Growth does not just happen.” It is truly a roadmap for personal growth.

The 1 Book: How Many People Does it Take to Make a Difference?  by Dan Zadra  and Kobi Yamada - Last read in 2017.

This book is packed full of quotes, questions and thoughts that encourage you to stretch your influence and make a difference.

The real life MBA by Jack and Suzy Welch - Last read in 2015. I really like this book because of its easy approach to business concepts that many leaders take for granted but future leaders need to learn.

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber - Last read in 2013. It is a formula for the type of business that I want my business to become.


Listening with Empathy by John Selby - Last read in 2013. There are so many books and classes on speaking but few in how to really listen. Listening is a skill that every leader needs to master and I think this book brings the topic to the forefront in an easy to read manner.

Change Your Questions Change Your Mind by Marilee Adams - Last read in 2013. By learning to ask the right questions we can change the way we view the world and our circumstances. I really like this book because it teaches you how to question your assumptions. 

The Language of Emotional Intelligence by Jeanne Segal - Last read in 2013. I first read this book when I wanted to learn more about emotional intelligence. It share about being able to regulate our own stress, emotions and chose our reactions.

Resolving Conflicts at Work by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith - Last read in 2015. We will always have conflict at work. What we need is to understand how to make conflict productive and positive. There is a focus on emotions, transformation, and listening, plus much more.


Assign them to multi-department project teams. Leaders need to understand how to work with people who are different, who think differently and have different ways of expressing themselves. By having future leaders work on project teams that are made up of different departments it gives them opportunities to practice skills like being flexible, listening, collaboration and working within a team.


Take them to Lunch & Slow walkabouts and talk to people. You need your current leadership to have influence. Influence allows them to model and show future leaders how to be effective leaders. By engaging with employees your current leaders are building relationships which in turn allow for more influence. You would not take business advice from a stranger on the street, right? So, if your leadership team are strangers  to their people, do you think that they will take leadership development advice from them? Taking them to lunch also encourages relationships.


Interactive workshops. I always say, “When people’s behinds get numb so does their brain.”  Interactive workshops help future leaders stay engaged with the content and engagement leads to information sticking.


Job shadowing – This does two things. It helps the future leader develop relationships with others and it allows them to see more of the bigger picture with in the organization.


Teach them about your business.  I was inspired to talk about “common sense” business ideas, acumen and processes after several conversations and a video.

I had conversations with two individuals about our employees should have more common sense. Here is the thing. Common sense is only common if that is how you grew up or were educated. If you were never exposed to the ideas, concepts or ways of being it is not common sense. Then I watched Susan Colantuono’s TED talk about career advice and the missing 33%.


 I thought, “Ah Ha this is why we are missing so many emerging leaders. We help them work on their leadership skills but we treat general business concepts like common sense." 


Watch the video and make sure you are not doing this. If we want more leaders we need to make sure they have leadership and business acumen.

Strategic plan/Strategic initiative - Bench strength and future leadership are things that every organization needs. What happens if your current leadership team all win the lottery and move? Where would your business be? By paying attention to development with in a strategic initiative frame work you focus on it and the results of your efforts. 

Leadership mindset.  A leadership mindset includes topics like: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships skills, empathy, decision-making, resilience, growth mindset, sense of purpose, and aspiration.

Examine your culture. Your culture impacts the type of leaders you can develop or if you can develop them at all. If you have a culture that is no open to learning, failure, change and building people then it will be challenging for you to develop leaders. This type of growth requires vulnerability and if your people cannot be vulnerable because there is someone waiting to take them out they may not step up to the new challenge. 

Leadership focused conversations. You are modeling the way that leadership is practiced within your organization. If you have conversations related to leaders, leadership and business acumen then it raises the importance of leadership in the minds of your team. 

Profiles and skills assessments.  The better people know themselves the better they can self regulate. When they learn to self regulate they can start to flex in their reactions to situations and people. It helps them start to build a foundation for their leadership. 

Budget. If you commit dollars in a budget to leadership development it sets your mind that you are serious about helping develop more leaders in your business. 

Encourage mentoring. People learn from others. If your leadership team mentors up an coming leaders it shows that your company cares about developing leaders and is making an effort to set them up for success. It also allows your leadership team to invest.

Big picture thinking. Leaders often have a big plan for their own lives as well as the organization that they are leading. If you encourage your emerging leaders to start with big picture thinking for themselves and their departments they will begin to practice this type of thinking in other areas of their lives. 

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